when i was a little girl, my parents, brother and i would road trip to my grandparents' house in scranton, pennsylvania, every winter and summer. i loved those road trips dearly, not because i relished piling into the back of my dad's jeep with my younger brother, but because at the end of them i'd get to see my nana and grandpa jack, who i loved more than almost anything. my nana was--is--the kind of grandmother every child should have: doting, kind, loyal, unconditionally loving. she's 89 years old now, still living in scranton, and i miss her every day of my life. for me, she is and has always been a rock.
and my grandfather--oh, my grandfather. he was a brigadier general in the army, a tireless advocate of his community, an ardent volunteer, a force to be reckoned with. he was brilliant, tough, hardworking, and he expected his family and friends to give their all in everything they did--anything less was unacceptable. he also loved that family and those friends with a fierceness that i have not encountered in many people. he was inspiring.
grandpa jack passed away in april of 2008; losing him was one of the hardest experiences i've ever gone through. but i have so many wonderful memories of him, and me-and-him, and one of my favorites is counting steps. nana and grandpa lived across the street from a college that had an odd, amphitheater-like set of round steps smack in the middle of the campus, and when i was little, he'd take my hand and, slowly and carefully, we'd walk those steps up and down, counting the whole time. it was such a simple activity, but i remember it vividly: the feel of my small hand in his, the green grass, the pebbly white stone steps, the sound of his voice, the warmth of the sun on the back of my neck.
counting steps became a tradition for us, and even towards the end of his life, grandpa jack and i would take slow walks around the college campus, always stopping to count the steps. it was an activity that was ours and ours alone; one i'll always protect and hold close to my heart. that's why, when grace posted this photo of lois keenan's sunny numbered stairs last friday, a flood of memories came rushing back.
i smiled for the rest of the day.